In mid-August the Carmelites not only celebrated the Feast of the Assumption, but also the 20th anniversary of the Australian Carmelites taking responsibility for the Timor-Leste Mission.

The mission was founded by the Indonesian Carmelites in 1999, and in January 2001 they asked the Australian Carmelites to take over responsibility. Their request was made in the light of the changing political circumstances in Timor-Leste and the struggle for independence from Indonesia. The Australian Carmelites voted unanimously to accept this responsibility and on 15 August 2001 formally took responsibility for the Timor-Leste Mission and the Timorese Carmelites.

To commence the Australian responsibility, Frs Wayne Stanhope (Prior Provincial) and David Hofman (Provincial Councillor) travelled to Timor-Leste with Fr Heribertus Purwanto, the Indonesian Provincial.  On arriving in Zumalai, they were accompanied by young people on motorbikes, and the roads were lined with people who waved and cheered.  At the gate to the Carmelite compound a small choir sang, ‘Welcome to the Family’ and the local king gave a long speech of welcome. Then dancers led a procession to the main house where there were more speeches and refreshments.

Late in the afternoon of 15 August 2001 an open-air Mass was celebrated at the church, during which Fr Heribertus formally entrusted the Timor-Leste Mission to the care of the Australian Province. Fr Wayne formally accepted this responsibility on behalf of the Australia Province.

At that time there were 3 Solemnly Professed Timorese Carmelites (1 priest & 2 deacons), 6 brothers in temporary vows, 2 novices and 10 candidates. Today there are 22 Solemnly Professed (13 priests, 1 deacon, 2 brothers & 6 Solemnly Professed students), 33 brothers in temporary profession and 3 Novices.

The 2004 Provincial Chapter voted to change the name of the Province to become the ‘Province of Our Lady, Help of Christians, Australia and Timor-Leste’.

In 2005 the former ‘transit house’ became the Blessed Titus Brandsma community at Fatuhada in Dili. 2007 saw the opening of St Elijah Novitiate at Hera which now houses formators and simply professed students. In 2010 São Nuno student house was opened next to St Elijah house, which now houses a mixture of novices and simply professed students.

The 2016 Provincial Chapter celebrated that, for the first time since Australia took responsibility in 2001, all Solemnly Professed brothers of the Province were able to attend and vote at the Provincial Chapter. Fourteen of the sixteen Solemnly Professed Timorese Carmelites attended the Chapter. The Chapter removed all restrictions on brothers from Timor-Leste attending future Provincial Chapters. It spent some time considering the implications of the emerging reality of the Province. The Chapter also elected the first Timorese, Aniceto Maia da Costa, to the Provincial Council.

Since then a new Church and boarding house have been built in Zumalai and the 3 parish schools have been renovated.

Writing in Carmel Contact in June 2016, newly-elected Provincial, Fr Paul Cahill said, “…my vision is to facilitate the development of the Province of Australia and Timor-Leste into a strong, vibrant and united province that finds new and relevant ways of serving people”.

That remains the hope of us Australian Carmelites, and indeed all Carmelites around the world, as we celebrate this anniversary and look to the future.